49 - Rome
PRESENT DAY The apparent source of all the commotion just stood there in the hallway, so far as I could tell completely ignoring the havoc she’d wrought. She was an older woman, short, barely more than five feet tall if that. Lightly built, she looked as if she might have been a dancer in the youth, although that would have been many years ago indeed. Steely gray hair pulled back into a tight bum framed a severe looking face with features hinting at perhaps an Asian background.
It all would have been quite amusing really, the fury of the blow that had blown the door open–even now it hung on only a single hinge–contrasted with the slight woman who seemed to be the only apparent possible cause. But amusement only went so far. In this case, it stopped precisely at the sword she held lightly in her left hand, it’s bare tip no more than an inch from the floor.
I heard Father Antonio say something behind me, but either the imploding door had done a number on my hearing or my brain had just not quite caught up with the oddity of the whole situation. Either way, I knew only that he had said something, the content itself was somewhat less clear.
I half turned to see what it was that he had said when the woman in the doorway spoke, her voice forcing my attention back to her and only her.
It wasn’t that unusual of a voice in itself. Had I heard it without context, overheard on a television special or the like, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. As it was though, the voice had context and that context was an elderly oriental lady with a sword. The voice didn’t match at all, it was a deep gravelly base, the sort that sets glass to vibrating.
“Where is it?” she said.
I had little doubt which it she was referring too–coincidence seemed to have taken a recent vacation–but that didn’t mean that I was going to hand over the shard just like that. Halfway ignoring her question for the moment, I instead asked, “and who are you to be asking?” I figured that it was both less rude and most likely safer–albeit less interesting–than the alternative what are you?.
Again, I heard Father Antonio speaking just out of my field of vision. This time it was the woman’s sword claiming all of my attention.
It was a long blade, unusually thin–not that I was an expert on such things, not by any stretch of the imagination–with a plain gray hilt, worked with some sort of pattern just barely poking out of her clenched fingers. The only thing that stood out at all about the blade was the way that it caught the light, bending and twisting the colors in the light into all manner of reflected patterns, much like oil left sit in a parking lot.
More strange still was the way that the woman held the blade, loosely in her fingers, the point spinning two and fro, tracing what I could only assume was some sort of strange symbol over the floor.
We stood that way for several long seconds, the woman and I, each steadfastly refusing to answer the other’s question. I dared not turn to look for either Father Antonio or Amira, I could only hope that they knew something more than I did about the woman in the doorway and were even now hatching some sort of crazy plan to get me out it.